born June 21, 1919 – died April 9th, 2013
Paolo Soleri was an Italian architect. He established the educational Cosanti Foundation and Arcosanti. Soleri was a lecturer in the College of Architecture at Arizona State University and a National Design Award recipient in 2006. He died at home of natural causes on 9 April 2013 at the age of 93.
Soleri authored several books, including The Bridge Between Matter & Spirit is Matter Becoming Spirit and Arcology – City In the Image of Man.
In 1950, Soleri, with his wife Colly (née Corolyn Woods), returned to Italy where he was commissioned to build a large ceramics factory, Ceramica Artistica Solimene, in Vietri on the Amalfi coast.
Soleri adapted ceramics industry processes learned at this time to use in his award-winning designs and production of ceramic and bronze windbells and silt-cast architectural structures. For more than 40 years, proceeds from sales of the wind-bells have been an important source of funds for construction that is meant to test his theoretical work. Ceramic and bronze bells continue to be produced and sold at Arcosanti and Cosanti in Arizona.
In 1956, Soleri settled in Scottsdale, Arizona, with Colly and the elder of their two daughters; the younger was born in Arizona. He began building Arcosanti in 1970 with the help of architecture and design students, as a place to test his urban design hypotheses. This “urban laboratory” (so-dubbed by Ada Louise Huxtable, who at the time was the architectural critic of The NY Times) became internationally renowned.
Paolo and Colly Soleri made a lifelong commitment to research and experimentation in urban planning. They established the Cosanti Foundation, a 501-3C educational non-profit foundation. Soleri’s philosophy and works were strongly influenced by the Jesuit paleontologist and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
Soleri died on 9 April 2013 and was buried at Arcosanti in its private cemetery, beside his wife.
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Arcosanti is intended as a prototype of a desert arcology. Soleri’s other arcology designs envisioned sites such as the ocean (Nova Noah), et al. (see: Arcology: City in the Image of Man). Since 1970, over 7000 people have participated in Arcosanti’s construction. Their international affiliation group is called the Arcosanti Alumni Network.
Soleri was a distinguished lecturer in the College of Architecture at Arizona State University and a member of the Lindisfarne Association.
In 1966, Paolo Soleri began working on the design for the Paolo Soleri Amphitheater in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was built for the IAIA (Institute of American Indian Arts) on what is now the campus of the Santa Fe Indian School using large silt cast forms. The property is owned by the nineteen Native American Pueblos of New Mexico and is therefore not protected by local or state preservation laws.
A landmark exhibition, “City in the Image of Man – The Architectural Visions of Paolo Soleri”, organized in 1970 by the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, traveled extensively thereafter in the U.S. and Canada, breaking records for attendance. “Two Suns Arcology, A Concept for Future Cities” opened in 1976 at the Xerox Square Center in Rochester, New York. In 1989, “Paolo Soleri Habitats: Ecologic Minutiae”, an exhibition of arcologies, space habitats, and bridges, was presented at the New York Academy of Sciences. More recently, “Soleri’s Cities, Architecture for the Planet Earth and Beyond” was featured at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts in Scottsdale, AZ. A Soleri bell appears in the film What the *Bleep* Do We Know? His work has been exhibited worldwide.
In 1976, Paolo Soleri was a key participant at UN Habitat I, the first UN forum on human settlements, held it Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, North America. Soleri appeared there together with Buckminster Fuller.
The Paolo Soleri Archives, the collection of Soleri’s drawings and writings, is located at Arcosanti. The Soleri Archives is managed by Sue Kirsch under the direction of Tomiaki Tamura, a Cosanti Board Trustee and Arcosanti’s Director of Special Projects. Tomiaki Tamura resides at Arcosanti.
An interview with Soleri was featured in the environmental documentary The 11th Hour (2007).
On 10 December 2010, the Soleri Bridge and Plaza was completed. The structure had been commissioned by Scottsdale Public Art. The 130-foot (40 m) pedestrian bridge based on Paolo Soleri’s design is located on the South Bank of the Arizona Canal and connects a developed retail area of the Scottsdale Waterfront with Old Town Scottsdale. The bridge is incorporated into a 22,000 sq ft (2,000 m2) plaza including silt cast artwork, as well as a large bell assembly called The Goldwater Bell, also designed by Paolo Soleri.
The feature-length documentary film The Vision Of Paolo Soleri: Prophet In The Desert (2013) contains interviews with Morley Safer, Paul Goldberger, Catherine Hardwicke, Will Bruder, Jean-Michel Cousteau, Steven Holl, and Eric Lloyd Wright.
1963 – American Institute of Architects Gold Medal for Craftmanship
“In my early adolescence, my father, an architect and craftsman, began sexually molesting me, eventually attempting rape when I was 17.”
Encouraged to publish the article by the #MeToo movement, Daniela wrote that she had already come forward to many of her father’s colleagues but received little response:
In the article, Daniela wrote about her lingering admiration for some of Soleri’s work and ideas. However, she also warned against uncritical praise of artists with abusive tendencies and the tendency to “accept abusive behavior as a necessary and justified cost for the contributions of intellect or creativity”. Of her father, Daniela wrote:
Soleri has been dead for nearly five years. The swell of hagiographic films, essays and performances has slowed, hopefully making room for a more useful perspective that includes not only consideration of his work, but also honest acknowledgment that he was flawed. That work will have to stand on its own, and not be seen as an inseparable part of Soleri as a person, including his best and worst behaviors.
As noted in Dezeen, Daniela’s article suggested that she had approached The New York Times or other news publishers to discuss her father’s abuse, but had been turned away. The Cosanti Foundation Board released an official statement in response to Daniela Soleri’s:
We are saddened by Daniela Soleri’s trauma. Her decision to speak out about her father’s behavior towards her helps us confront Paolo Soleri’s flaws, and compels us to reconsider his legacy. With Paolo Soleri’s creative intelligence, he understood the need for discipline and limits to the urban form. However, his narcissism prevented him from understanding the need for discipline and limits on abusive behavior. We support and stand firmly with Daniela.
We know that Arcosanti and Cosanti are much greater than the ideas of one man. Over the past fifty years, more than 8,000 participants from all over the world have contributed to Arcosanti and Cosanti through our workshops and programs. Our work in urban planning will continue. It was considered radical fifty years ago and has proven itself relevant today. Our goal is a built environment inspired by Soleri’s architecture that fosters community, integrates the natural world, and nurtures the best of human nature.
Curbed editor-in-chief Kelsey Keith wrote “[Daniela] Soleri’s account is breathtaking not only for its thorough and very personal reckoning with the truth, but for its clear-eyed articulation of the reasons why assigning all intellectual power to a solitary genius is so harmful.” Keith noted that architecture as a profession “hasn’t (yet) experienced its Weinstein moment”, referring to the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations and the resulting “Weinstein effect” of reporting sexual misconduct committed by powerful men in media and other industries. In a 2018 Curbed article, Hilary George-Parkin said:
“While Hollywood, tech, sports, media, politics, the restaurant industry, and others are reeling from high-profile revelations and resignations, the design world has remained—with the notable exception of Daniela Soleri’s account of sexual abuse by her father, architect Paolo Soleri—mostly undisturbed in the public realm.”
“Biographical profile: Paolo Soleri”. Arcosanti.
S. Suatoni (a cura di) ‘Paolo Soleri. Etica e Invenzione Urbana’, catalogo della mostra, Roma 8 ottobre 2005- 8 gennaio 2006 (Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica, Maxxi, Casa dell’Architettura), Roma Palombi, Jaca book 2006